Is Covid Killing Young Love?


Romance and relationships can be difficult to navigate in the best of times. They can be even more challenging during a global pandemic. With studies demonstrating reduced sexual activity in adults during lockdown, researchers theorized youth would show a similar reduction.

Dr. Jennifer Yarger led a study in Fresno County, California to evaluate the effects of social distancing due to Covid-19 on the romantic relationships and sexual activity of adolescents (age 13-17) and young adults (age 18-21). The research team surveyed 351 participants about their in-person and online sexual and romantic relationships before and after social distancing went into effect.

Yarger’s graph indicates that adolescent couples’ in-person and sexual interactions decreased compared to the period before Covid lockdowns, though by small amounts. Participants having sex decreased by 4% and participants seeing partners in person decreased by 11%. These changes must be considered in the context that most participants were not sexually or romantically active prior to lockdown.

Exploring romance and sex is part of social development. Ensuring adolescents have access to sex education can remain a priority by supporting schools and community-based organizations. Sex-ed classes in schools can be hit or miss, and often students dread them. Developing these programs for digital format can help ensure safety and access for kids exploring intimacy and romance.

Databyte via Yarger, J., Gutmann-Gonzalez, A., Han, S. et al. Young people’s romantic relationships and sexual activity before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. BMC Public Health, 2021.